Chasing Salmon

From the deserted white sandy beaches of Yeagerup to the heart pumping, shoulder to shoulder action of the salmon holes, Western Australia’s southern coast line has it all.

Mention land based sportfish to a keen West Australian angler and more than likely some of the first species that will be mentioned are spaniards, queenies, jumbo tailor, sambos, tuna, and kings. Mention salmon in amongst that lot and you will probably be scoffed at, laughed at or even worse given the “are you serious look”.

Well personally I think it’s a tad unfair. Let’s look at the facts. Salmon are great fighters capable of fantastic speed and stamina, even more so on light tackle. They will readily take almost any bait or artificial lure. They school in huge numbers which can mean a session can last for hours. They are accessible to almost all fishermen whether young or old, experienced and beginners and on top of all that they are the masters of throwing hooks and will put on spectacular aerial displays to compete with any queeny or jumbo tailor.

Here in Western Australia we are lucky to have very healthy stocks of Australian salmon and generally the average sizes are bigger than the ones found on the east coast. The average size of salmon is around 4-6 kilograms and bull fish of 8 or 9 are not uncommon.

If you travel along the south coast to Esperance and beyond, salmon can be caught virtually all year round and in good seasons when the warm water of the Leeuwin current is routed far enough north by the cooler waters of the southern ocean, you can catch salmon as far north as Yanchep and Two Rocks. The great thing about salmon is that on their annual pilgrimage north there are virtually hundreds of spots to target them for land based fisherman.  Weather you prefer relaxing in a deck chair with the sand between your toes and a cold beer in your hand or scrambling over granite boulders to get to that perfect platform south west WA has it all.

Your average fisherman still uses the tried and tested method, of staking out a gutter and soaking a pilchard on a simple paternoster rig while waiting for the salmon schools to swim by. A couple of cold beers or a thermos full of coffee usually helps to pass the time and with salmon migrating along some of the most picturesque coastline south Western Australia has to offer its not a bad way to fish. Although I do pick up the odd resident salmon while live baiting for bigger species like Samson fish and Yellowtail Kings, I very rarely target Salmon with bait, I find it much more rewarding hooking them on artificials.

I have had success targeting Salmon on all types of lures with plugs and poppers being my absolute favourite. Salmon just seem incapable of resisting a blooping popper or plug fluttering on the surface. another lure that also seems to work really well on salmon are stick baits, their erratic ducking and diving, can sometimes see two or three salmon jockeying for position to engulf you offering. Soft plastics also account for a lot of fish each year especially for people targeting them lighter gear. Pulling a 5 or 6 kilo salmon on a bream gear really takes salmon fishing to another level!! Putting in the time flicking paddle tails and grubs into onshore gutters can entice even the most fussy of fish to strike. I can’t wait to get down this year and flick some Whipbaits around; they’ve got big salmon written all over them!

Generally I use a 2.7 to 2.9 meter graphite rod matched with a 4000-6000 size reel spooled with 6-8 kilo line, and if I’m targeting them from the stones then I make sure to run a couple of rod lengths of 25 kg mono shock leader. Most recently I’ve been using a 2.74m Revolution Inshore matched with an Aero Ci4 4000. I find this set-up light enough to spin with all day and with a maximum of 9 kilos of drag, has enough stopping power to put the brakes on a dirty fighter.

When scouting for salmon the most important thing is to position your self in an elevated location to scan the water for schools. Quite often large salmon schools can hold tonnes of fish and people often mistake a big school for a bank of weed. It will appear as a large black or brown stain in the water and if you carry a pair of binoculars with you may even notice dolphins or sharks tailing the school waiting to pick off any fish that become separated. A good quality pair of polarizes sunglasses are essential when spotting salmon as they remove a lot of the glare from the surface of the water and also allow you to see further into it. Make sure you have your rod and reel ready to go and your lure attached as once you spot that heaving mass of fish there will not be a pack of wild horses that will stop you from charging down to the waters edge and casting at it!!

Unfortunately this year looks like it will be another very strong year for the Leeuwin current in southern Western Australia which means that we are unlikely to see good numbers of salmon turning up around the Perth metropolitan area, so if you have never experience the thrill of a red hot salmon bite with fish muscling each other aside to crash you popper or metal slice, then start planning your great southern salmon run now!